This week, I sold three Christmas-themed items from my online store. The premature display of holiday spirit reminded me of last year, when I dropped the ball in planning for the holiday season.

I planned to have product photos shot by October, copy written and emails scheduled by November. But I didn't get started until nearly Thanksgiving--and I lost a lot of potential sales.

The lesson I learned is this: if you haven't gotten started on your holiday marketing now, you're already late.

Why now?

As soon as September hits, social media erupts with excitement at the start of fall. New York weather remains in the high 70s, but our minds are taken over by pumpkin spice lattes and Halloween costumes.

And as soon as Halloween is over, it's time for the end-of-year holiday rush. Retailers put out Santas and start blaring Jingle Bells long before Thanksgiving. Bottom line: the season is coming faster than you think. And it's time to get prepared.

Start planning

No, it's not time to launch your marketing campaigns yet. But preparation for holiday sales and marketing takes a lot of time, and you'll need to start now to stay on track.

First, you want to make sure that your holiday marketing will be seen, which means now is the time to make sure your sales funnel is full of new leads. Take time now to build up your mailing list, boost your site's SEO rankings, or build your audience.

Make sure you're already writing ads and content that are getting clicked and read. If you're confident about your writing skills and know what works for your audience, your holiday-focused ads will be more likely to succeed.

Finally, set a clear schedule to plan and execute your holiday sales and marketing strategy.

Decide a timeline for each task. Things like:

  • Deciding your main marketing messages

  • Building holiday packages and decide prices

  • Writing landing pages and listings

  • Taking product photos

  • Sending promotions

  • Launching sales

List out exactly what you need to do, set a date for each one and do it! (I'm speaking to my last-year self now.)

When's the best time to start marketing?

Black Friday is the peak time for Christmas shopping. So in order to get your ads and content in front of enough people before the big day, it's best to start around the first or second week of November.

When the week of Thanksgiving (and Black Friday) rolls around, that's when the bulk of your marketing will go out. It's best to keep campaigns going through the end of the following week, to catch those shoppers who didn't take advantage of Black Friday deals.

Of course, as my customers have shown, the end of summer sparks holiday spirit in lots of people. So it doesn't hurt to start putting out holiday-themed products now.

This year, I won't drop the ball. From my business to yours, best wishes for your most successful holiday season yet.